Drinking History

Walking 1066 Harold’s Way

 

The George Southwark

 

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A cold evening and the courtyard outside the galleried George is beginning to fill up with Friday drinkers let loose from the office. Inside it is busy and soon to get busier.

Once, there were similar medieval inns in the alleyways that lined the road from London Bridge and a haven for travellers, thieves and gambling.

First recorded around 1543, this ‘new’ building dates from 1667 after being destroyed by fire and rebuilt exactly to the same plan as before allowing 21st century drinkers to experience that touch of history as Dickens did before.

The first room is the best of all the small rooms and bars that lie end on end stretching long and thin from the main road.

Set underneath the galleried first floor is a room that was most likely two rooms at one time, each with its own fire place. Black walls, black beams, lacquered with years of paint, black fireplaces, window seats, inglenooks and a wood burner that provides that hint of wood smoke for that true medieval experience.

The Parliament Clock remains from 1797 and there are still one or two dark wood tables and benches. In 1976, there were wooden floor boards, original and left bare, but these have disappeared and the room looks higher than I remember 40 years ago.

This is the bar in which to sit and drink that timeless pint before venturing on the Greenwich although after a visit The George, the walk may end early with a trip to Borough Market to round off the day. Greenwich can wait for another time.

Beers are Greene King with a special George Inn Ale on offer at 4% as well as GK IPA, GK Abbot Reserve 6.5%, Sambrook’s House Porter, Rocking Rudolph 4,2%.

IMG_20171117_172307547There were a few craft beers but my experiences of over-chilled pints and sterile taste are not something that I enjoy.

In the other bars, there are beams and pillars, stools and ledges and further along rooms with wood panelling, tables and chairs that has more a sense of Dickens than 1667.

Sit outside and in the early evening, the lights of The Shard reflect some future City of Dreams.

It is a tourist pub but one that is not a pastiche and one that should be visited at least once but is experienced at its best in the Parliament Bar.

77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH Tel: 020 7407 2056

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Crinkle, Crankle!

1066 Harold’s Way Walk 4

Dartford to Istead Rise

Dartford is 1066 Harold’s Way gateway to the Downs and the Weald.

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Crossing Watling Street, now Dartford’s High Street, we can say our goodbyes to London. Away from the River Darent, 1066 Harold’s Way climbs up to give a first taste of the North Downs and the beautiful views south over the Darent Valley and west along the line of the Downs towards Surrey. There is just the hint of a hidden population amidst the rolling hills and valleys, lush fields and rows of trees, as far as the eye can see.

The landscape changes as we pass under the A2 and then the M25 and the noise of the traffic gives way to the solitude of a church built from the rubble of a Roman villa 1000 years ago. It stood as Harold passed. This is old Saxon land that we are walking and Harold would have drawn support here, and on the rest of the march, for his important battle ahead.

For Harold and his army, there were only 12½ miles to march to Rochester but our quiet meanderings, away from speeding Motorway traffic, will add another 6 miles to the journey.

It is good to walk across grassland, by paddocks and fields of crops, through woods and country parks, past the occasional farm and into villages that were once prosperous but seem to have now lost their heart, with the closure of pub, post office and shop.

Despite the changes, their character still remains, from the quarry houses of Bean to the ‘crinkle crankle’ wall at Betsham.

Southfleet is different. It is old with a long history and equally important an old pub, ‘The Ship’, to savour 1066 Harold’s Way.

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Southfleet is in stark contrast to the ‘new’ village of Istead Rise with its estates, shops and important bus links but it is without a pub to provide a toast at the end of the walk.

Watch ‘Memories of 1066 Harold’s Way on You Tube

Link: The Ship, Southfleet

1066 Harold’s Way is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles as well as good book shops and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

For details of how to buy: Click Here

Walks, Talks and Books

from

History Walks, 1066 Harold’s Way and The Saxon Times

Web: www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Wild and Desolate

1066 Harold’s Way Walk 3: Lesnes Abbey to Dartford

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This is a mixture of the wild and desolate and the urban and industrial, of old paths and new roads, old bridges and new bridges, meandering rivers and canals built in hope, Saxon Manors and concrete architecture. We pass the detritus of modern urban and industrial re-development and the solitude of a Church that figured in history during King John’s reign.

It is a walk that reflects the dreams of men and often their failure, from the monks of Lesnes Abbey who fought to hold back the Thames to the navigators and entrepreneurs of Dartford, building a ship canal that could not cope with the pressure of the tide.

Erith belies its history and its royal connections. Once it shaped England with a Council between King John and the Barons to avoid further civil war and a French invasion. Later, it was to build ‘the greatest ship ever known’, the ship that took Henry VIIIth to France, to ‘the Field of the Cloth of Gold’. Now it is a modern town with little of the past on show. Its closeness to the Thames has left it with factories and depots obscuring the river but Erith leads to the wilderness of the Cray Marshes with the QE2 Bridge soaring above the landscape. Even with power stations, breakers yards and flood defences there is still a beauty about this salt marsh.

The land has been farmed for centuries and at a curve in the River Darent, a path leads to Howbury Manor, less than half a mile away and mentioned in the Domesday Book. It would have stood at the time of Harold and with the Roman road only 1½ miles to the south – perhaps Harold dropped in for a ‘beer or a wine’ with the owner.

Follow the Darent to Dartford with its industrial heritage of paper production and engineering. Although the factories and paper mills have gone under the breakers ball there is now space for new dreams to be fulfilled and the herald of a new age for Dartford.

1066 Harold’s Way is a 100mile long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex, inspired by King Harold II’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The guidebook is available from good bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and by mail order from History Walks.

http://www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Walk of the Month – February

The Walking Year – 1066 Harold’s Way

Inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings, 1066 – Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey

Greenwich to Lesnes Abbey

 

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From the magnificence of Greenwich to the iconic steel hoods of the Thames Barrier shining in the sunlight, a broad walkway allows you to stroll next to a much wider river than before. Working wharves line the riverside giving an industrial air to the area and the occasional decaying pier or warehouse only serves as a reminder that London was once the busiest port in the world.

Imagine the scene with ships moored all along The Thames up to London Bridge, all the hustle and bustle of cargos from all around the world being unloaded, helping an older London expand to meet new needs. The wharves now lie mostly idle, larger ships need deeper water and the Port has moved to Tilbury, further down the river, but there is still the feeling of a history to follow in every step you take along the Thames Path.

The second part of this walk is away from the river, walking through parks and ancient woodland that have survived for a thousand years, a world distant from the streets of London. So beautiful are the trees and trails, and the solitude and inspiration they provide, that it is hard to imagine how close you are to the City.

  • Start: Greenwich (Southeastern & DLR)
  • Finish: Lesnes Abbey – Abbey Park Station (Southeastern)
  • Travel: www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk
  • Distance: 9.75 miles
  • Time: 3 ½ hours
  • Maps: OS Explorer 162
  • Guide: 1066 Harold’s Way

Walk

This section relies heavily first on the Thames Path, from London Bridge to the Thames Barrier and secondly, the Green Chain Walk to Lesnes Abbey that continues towards Erith and Dartford. Both are well signposted but occasionally the instructions and waymarks are less clear, especially along the Thames Path. At the finish, it is a short walk from Lesnes Abbey to Abbey Wood Station with time for a pint in the Abbey Arms just across the road.

It would appear that The Abbey Arms has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last two years, reintroducing draft beer and food and from the reviews is worth stopping for that rewarding and satisfying pint. My last visit was in 2013 and I am looking forward to my next visit on a 1066 Harold’s Way re-walk sometime soon.

Food

There are plenty of places to buy food and drink at the start of the walk in Greenwich, whether to eat in or to take away for lunch, but be warned, there is nowhere to buy food until the Thames Barrier, no shops until you reach Plumstead and the only public toilets are at the Barrier Café, Marryon Park and Lesnes Abbey.

A Last Few Goodbyes

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Rotherhithe, July 1620

Men women and children clamouring excitedly waiting to board ship, their usual demeanour forgotten in the face of persecution and the opportunity for a new beginning.

What few possessions they owned were already loaded and as the tide rose, the ship creaked and rocked in the water and a few goodbyes were made as the last of the 65 passengers boarded.

Rotherhithe was the Mayflower’s home port and she had been carrying wine from the continent but, curiously and unusual for a ship trading to London, there was no record of any voyages of Captain Jones’s Mayflower from 1616. Such a ship would not usually disappear from the records for such a long time and one wonders what cargo she had been running but in any event, Captain Jones found time to take these Pilgrims to the New World.

Other ships lined the wharves, loading and unloading cargo and the noise of men and carts and horses, oaths shouted, orders given and the smell of the Thames would almost be the last that these people would remember of their capital, although they would have a final stop at Plymouth before fleeing England.

Next to where the Mayflower lay was The Shippe, a beer house, ignored by the Brethren for they did not drink, but much enjoyed by sailors and traders. Deals were done in the small dark candlelit rooms, buying and selling who knows what in this remote wharf, downstream from London Bridge and the city. Beyond the few houses that made up Rotherhithe were streams and marshes that drained into the great river and it would not be until the end of the century that great man-made docks would begin to be built that would transform the riverside.

Eventually, after being rebuilt in the 18th and 20th centuries and renamed The Mayflower, the pub remains a lure for regulars and visitors and for walkers along the Thames Path and 1066 Harold’s Way.

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There are still small rooms, wooden floors and tables were the day’s events can be readily discussed but now the sunlight streams through the windows and those dark days can only be imagined.

Walk 1066 Harold’s Way to one of London’s great pubs and share in its history.

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

http://www.mayflowerpub.co.uk/

https://whatpub.com/pubs/SEL/10711/mayflower-rotherhithe

A Cold but Glorious January Day

Walk 1 Monets Inspiration  Walk 1 Canary Wharf

950 years ago, Westminster Abbey was at the centre of events that would change England forever. New Year’s Day, 1066, and Westminster Abbey was newly consecrated but within days there would be a royal funeral followed by the coronation of Harold.

Later in the year, the King would set off from the Palace first north to York and Stamford Bridge and then south towards Caldbec Hill and to face William’s Norman threat.

Imagine following in Harold’s footsteps to walk along the same Roman roads and ancient ridgeways, through the great forest of the Andreasweald, crossing rivers and valleys, to pause at the old hoar apple tree on Caldbec Hill and look out over the battle field at Senlac Hill, now the site of Battle Abbey.

The road from Westminster to London Bridge would have followed the high ground of The Strand. There was possibly a second crossing, a causeway or ferry at Thorney Island where the new Westminster Abbey had been built next to the Palace. This link to Watling Street would have been across the marshy south bank of the Thames and it seems likely that Harold would have taken the high ground if only to gather support from the City.

The River Thames was lined with safe havens for shipping of all sizes, the safest of which were the inlets of rivers that flowed into the Thames and we pass Billingsgate, Dowgate and Queenhithe remnants of London’s wharves.

In Saxon times, the wooden London Bridge was still firmly linked to the old Roman road network and especially with Watling Street, the road to Canterbury and Dover along which Harold and his army are most likely to have marched to Rochester.

Today, the Embankment and the Thames path provide an easier walk to Greenwich with a pint at The Mayflower at about the halfway mark or The Dog and Bell a little later on. What could be better on a glorious but cold January day.

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Website:                 http://www.1066haroldsway.co.uk/

CAMRA WhatPubhttps://whatpub.com/